The Ice Hotel in Switzerland

by James Rada, Jr.

You might think igloos are something solely for Eskimos, but Iglu-Dorf is a chain of seven hotels in Europe (primarily Switzerland) where the rooms are igloos. Each igloo village holds up to 52 guests at a time, and is open from Christmas Day to the beginning of April every year. Each village requires 3,000 tons of snow to build each year. Canadian Intuit artisans create the ice sculptures in the village, which are illuminated by candlelight.

History

In the mid 1990s, photographer Adrian Gunter wanted to be the first person on the mountains in the morning to take photos of the sunrise on snow untouched by skiers. So he built an igloo and slept in it in a sleeping bag. Friends soon joined him in building igloos, and before long they had a base camp. Then tourists and other skiers began asking for permission to sleep in them, and an idea was born. The igloo hotel village opened during the 1995-1996 season. As interest grew, so did the village. Gunter had to develop new techniques to make his igloos to keep up with demand. During the 2008-2009 season, more than 10,000 guests stayed.

Rooms

Igloos built for two have a private whirlpool and toilet, and family igloos accommodate up to six guests. The cost of the rooms range from $400 to $550 a night in 2010. The prices include food, nonalcoholic drinks, and the use of the sauna or whirlpools. You sleep in an expedition sleeping bag, and the floors are covered with lamb-fur rugs.

Facilities

Each igloo village is built partially underground so that “from the outside the igloo village looks like a huge pile of snow with a few entrances,” according to the Iglu-Dorf website. The sleeping igloos are connected to the public rooms by a tunnel system. Each village has a dining room, bar and meeting room for small group parties like a wedding. The igloo villages have an outdoor heated pool, whirlpools and saunas. If you want to hold a wedding at the village, each igloo village has a church.

Surviving the Cold

Because the interior temperature of the hotel hovers around freezing, guests need to bring warm clothing, gloves, socks, hats and shoes. Because of the close quarters, bring your clothing in a backpack or sports bag. Guests are asked not to bring a suitcase. You do not need to bring a sleeping bag. An expedition sleeping bag will be provided for your use. Also bring a flashlight for moving through the hallways and room in the night. Credit cards are not accepted at Iglu-Dorf. Guests pay with cash or traveler's checks if they buy anything at the village.

Locations

Of Iglu-Dorf’s seven hotels, five are in Switzerland’s Swiss Alps. These villages are located in Gstaad, Engelberg, Davos, St. Moritz and Zermatt. There is also a Iglu-Dorf in Zugspitze, Austria and Grandvalira, Andorra.

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